กกกกThe Gaoshan people,
about 415,000 in total, account for less than 2 per cent of the
17 million inhabitants, based on statistics published by Taiwan
authorities in June 1982 of Taiwan Province. The majority of them
live in mountain areas and the flat valleys running along the east
coast of Taiwan Island, and on the Isle of Lanyu. About 1,500 live
in such major cities as Shanghai, Beijing and Wuhan and in Fujian
Province on the mainland.
The Gaoshans do not have their own
script, and their spoken language belongs to the Indonesian group
of the Malay/Polynesian language family.
Taiwan Island, home to the Gaoshans,
is subtropical in climate with abundant precipitation and fertile
land yielding two rice crops a year (three in the far south). Being
one of China's major sugar producers, Taiwan also grows some 80
kinds of fruit, including banana, pineapple, papaya, coconut, orange,
tangerine, longan and areca. Taiwan's oolong and black teas are
among its most popular items for export.
The Taiwan Mountain Range runs from
north to south through the eastern part of the island, which is
55 per cent forested. Over 70 per cent of the world's camphor comes
from Taiwan. Short and rapid rivers flowing from the mountains provide
abundant hydropower, and the island is blessed with rich reserves
of gold, silver, copper, coal, oil, natural gas and sulfur. Salt
is a major product of the southeast coast, and the offshore waters
are ideal fishing grounds.
Gaoshans are mainly farmers growing rice, millet, taro and sweet
potatoes. Those who live in mixed communities with Han people on
the plains work the land in much the same way as their Han neighbors.
For those in the mountains, hunting is more important, while fishing
is essential to those living along the coast and on small islands.
Gaoshan traditions make women responsible
for ploughing, transplanting, harvesting, spinning, weaving, and
raising livestock and poultry. Men's duties include land reclamation,
construction of irrigation ditches, hunting, lumbering and building
Flatland inhabitants entered feudal
society at about the same time as their Han neighbors. Private land
ownership, land rental, hired labor and the division between landlords
and peasants had long emerged among these Gaoshans. But, in Bunong
and Taiya, land was owned by primitive village communes. Farm tools,
cattle, houses and small plots of paddy field were privately owned.
A primitive cooperative structure operated in farming and the bag
of collective hunting was distributed equally among the hunters
with an extra share each to the shooter and the owner of the hound
Customs and Habits
The Gaoshans are monogamous and patriarchal
in family system, though the Amei tribe still retains some of the
vestiges of the matriarchal practice. Commune heads are elected
from among elderly women and families are headed by women, with
the eldest daughter inheriting the family property and male children
married off into the brides' families. In the Paiwan tribe, either
the eldest son or daughter can be heir to the family property. All
the Amei young men and some of the Paiwan youths have to live in
a communal hall for a certain period of time before they are initiated
into manhood at a special ceremony.
Gaoshan clothes are generally made
of hemp and cotton. Men's wear includes capes, vests, short jackets
and pants, leggings and turbans decorated with laces, shells and
stones. In some areas, vests are delicately woven with rattan and
coconut bark. Women wear short blouses with or without sleeves,
aprons and trousers or skirts with ornaments like bracelets and
ankle bracelets. They are skilled in weaving cloths and dyeing them
in bright colors and they like to decorate sleeve cuffs, collars
and hems of blouses with beautiful embroidery. They also use shells
and animal bones as ornaments. In some places, the time-honored
tradition of tattooing faces and bodies and denting the teeth has
been preserved. Some elderly Gaoshan women, though having lived
on the mainland among the Han people for many years, still take
pride in their distinctive embroidery.
For transportation in rugged terrain,
the Gaoshans have built bamboo and rattan suspension or arch bridges
and cableways over steep ravines. They are also highly skilled in
handicrafts. Their rattan and bamboo weaving, including baskets,
hats and armors, pottery utensils, wooden mortars and pestles and
dugout canoes are unique in design and decoration. In the mountains,
the Cao and Bunong tribes are experts in tanning hides, while the
Taiya tribe makes excellent fishing nets.
Songs and dances are very much a part
of Gaoshan life. On holidays, they would gather for singing and
dancing. They have many ballads, fairy tales, legends, odes to ancestors,
hunting songs, dirges and work songs. Instruments include the mouth
organ, nose flute, and bamboo flute. One musical form unique to
the Gaoshans is a work song accompanying the pounding of rice.
Gaoshan art includes a great deal of
carving and painting of human figures, animals, flowers and geometric
designs on wooden lintels, panels, columns and thresholds, musical
instruments and household utensils. Hunting and other aspects of
life are also depicted, and figures with human heads and snake bodies
are a common theme.
The Gaoshans are animists who believe
in immortality and ancestor worship. They hold sacrificial rites
for all kinds of occasions including hunting and fishing. The dead
are buried without coffins in the village graveyard. There are vestiges
of the worship of totems -- snakes and animals -- and certain taboos
The name Gaoshan was created for the
minority people in Taiwan following victory over Japan in 1945.
There are several versions of the origin of the ethnic minority.
The main theories are: they are indigenous, they came from the west,
or the south, or several different sources. The theory that they
came from the west is based on their custom of cropping their hair
and tattooing their bodies, worshipping snakes as ancestors and
their language, all of which indicate that they might have been
descendants of the ancient Baiyue people on the mainland. Another
theory says that their language and culture bear resemblance to
the Malays from the Philippines and Borneo, and so the Gaoshans
must have come from the south. The third and more reliable theory
is that the Gaoshan ethnic group originated from one branch of the
ancient Yue ethnic group living along the coast of the mainland
during the Stone Age. They were later joined by immigrants from
the Philippines, Borneo and Micronesia.
Cementing close economic and cultural
ties through living and working together over a long period of time,
these peoples had by the time of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911)
welded themselves into a new ethnic group known as Fan or Eastern
Fan, which is today called the Gaoshan ethnic group.
Archaeological evidence suggests that
the Gaoshan ethnic group has all along maintained close connections
with the mainland. Until the end of the Pleistocene Epoch 30,000
years ago, Taiwan had been physically part of the mainland. Fossils
of human skulls belonging to this period and Old Stone Age artifacts
found in Taiwan show that humans probably moved there from the mainland
during the Pleistocene Epoch. Neolithic adzes, axes and pottery
shards unearthed on the island suggest that New Stone Age culture
on the mainland was introduced into Taiwan 3,000 to 4,000 years
A.D. 230, two generals of the Kingdom of Wu led a 10,000-strong
army across the Taiwan Straits, and brought back several thousand
natives from the island. At that time, the ancestors of the Gaoshans
belonged to several primitive, matriarchal tribes. Public affairs
were run collectively by all members. Their tools included axes,
adzes and rings made of stone and arrowheads and spearheads made
of deer antlers. Animal husbandry was still in an embryonic stage.
By the early 7th century, the Gaoshans
had started farming and livestock breeding on top of hunting and
gathering. They planted cereal crops with stone farm tools. Each
tribe was governed by a headman who summoned the membership for
meetings by beating a big drum. There was neither criminal code
nor taxation. Criminal cases were tried by the entire tribe membership.
The offender was tied with ropes, flailed for minor offences or
put to death for serious crimes.
These early Gaoshans had no written
language, nor calendar; and they kept records by tying knots. People
worshipped the Gods of Mountain and Sea, and liked carving, painting,
singing and dancing.
In the Song and Yuan dynasties (960-1368),
central government control was extended to the Penghu Islands and
Taiwan, which were placed under the jurisdiction of Jinjiang and
Tongan counties in Fujian Province. During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),
farming, hunting and animal husbandry further developed in Taiwan.
In the early 17th century, an increasing number of Hans from the
mainland moved to Taiwan, lending a great impetus to economic development
along the island's west coast.
The Gaoshan and Han people in Taiwan
worked closely together in developing the island and fighting against
foreign invaders and local feudal rulers. Japanese pirates invaded
Chilung, the major seaport in Northern Taiwan, in 1563. In 1593
the Japanese rulers tried to coerce the Gaoshan people into paying
tribute to them but this demand was firmly rejected. The invasions
of Japanese pirates from 1602 to 1628 were repeatedly beaten back.
Towards the end of the Ming Dynasty
(1368-1644), the Dutch and the Spanish time and again made forays
into Taiwan, but were repulsed by the islanders. Finally, in 1642,
the Dutch defeated the Spanish, seized the island and imposed tyrannical
rule on the local people. This touched off immediate resistance.
The anti-Dutch armed uprising led by Guo Huaiyi in the mid-17th
century was the largest in scale. In April 1661, China's national
hero Zheng Chenggong led an army of 25,000 men to Taiwan and freed
it from under the Dutch with the assistance of the local Gaoshan
and Han people, ending the Dutch invaders' 38-year-old colonial
rule over Taiwan.
After recovering Taiwan from the Dutch,
Zheng Chenggong instituted a series of measures to advance economic
growth and cultural development there. He forbade his troops engaged
in reclamation to encroach on the Gaoshan people's land, helped
the local people improve their farm tools and learn more advanced
farming methods from the Han people, encouraged children to attend
school, and expanded trading. With the growth of production, the
feudal system of land ownership came into being, and the gap between
the rich and the poor was getting wider and wider. The feudal landlord
economy developed in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), when the Gaoshans
began using ox-driven carts, ploughs and rakes developed by the
Zheng died five months after recovering
the island, and his son succeeded him. The Zhengs governed Taiwan
for 23 years. In 1683, the Qing court brought the island under central
government control and this rule lasted for 212 years till Taiwan
fell under Japanese rule following the signing of the Sino-Japanese
Treaty of Shimonoseki in 1895.
After the Opium War of 1840, British,
American, Japanese and French colonialists invaded and plundered
Taiwan one after another. The foreign invasion and plundering were
met with fierce resistance. To fight the British invaders, the local
people formed a volunteer army of 47,000 troops who beat back all
the five British invasions.
Taiwan fell into the hands of the Japanese
in 1895 after China's defeat in the Sino-Japanese War. Fighting
shoulder to shoulder for five months, Gaoshan and Han people inflicted
32,315 casualties on the Japanese invaders.
During the 20 years from 1895 to 1915,
the people of Taiwan staged some 100 armed uprisings against Japanese
occupation. One of them was the Wushe Uprising mounted by the Gaoshan
people in Taichung County in 1930. Enraged by the murder of a Gaoshan
worker by Japanese police, over 300 Gaoshan villagers wiped out
the 130 Japanese soldiers stationed there and held Wushe for three
days. In the following months, the insurgents killed and wounded
more than 4,000 Japanese occupationists. In retaliation, the Japanese
moved in most of their garrison forces in Taiwan along with planes
and guns and crushed the uprising. They slaughtered over 1,200 Gaoshans
including all the insurgents.
After victory over Japan in 1945, Taiwan
was returned to China and placed under Kuomintang rule.
Gaoshans on the Mainland
Twenty-nine hundred Gaoshans
now live on the mainland. Though small in number, these Gaoshans
have their deputies to the National People's Congress, China's supreme
organ of power. They enjoy equal rights in the big family of all
ethnic groups on the mainland.
The Gaoshan people share the aspiration
of all other ethnic groups in China for peaceful reunification of
the motherland, so that people on both sides of the Taiwan Straits
will be reunited.